Essential Party Etiquette Whether You’re A Guest Or Host

The holiday season is a time for cheerful and festive gatherings. Amidst all the merriment, though, it’s important to remember your manners.

By Molly Farinholt3 min read
Pexels/Inga Seliverstova

Follow these etiquette rules to ensure that you don’t detract from the holiday cheer. 

For Guests 

Respond to the invitation in a timely manner.

Mark your calendar or set a reminder on your phone so you remember to RSVP on or before the specified date. If allowed a plus-one, let the host(ess) know whether or not you will arrive accompanied by one. 

Arrive on time...

...And with a small gift, such as a small poinsettia or other floral arrangement, bottle of wine, or even a jar of homemade granola (for which the hostess will be immensely grateful come breakfast time the morning after the party). 

Offer to help.

The hostess will likely thank you, but let you know she has it all under control. However, it’s always a nice gesture to offer your assistance. Instead of asking, “Can I help?” ask “How can I help?” That way, if the hostess does need help, she’s more likely to actually ask for it.

It’s always a nice gesture to offer your assistance.

Put away your phone.

While this year has made screens even more prevalent, a party is still no place for them. Tuck your phone into your pocket or purse and enjoy the real face time with those gathered around you. 

Talk to strangers.

Don’t just stay in one small circle of conversation for the duration of the party. Instead, move around and mingle, introducing yourself to those whom you have not yet met. You already have at least one friend in common, so, chances are, you’ll have something to discuss. If you need some tips on making small talk, check out this article.

Don’t overindulge.

Moderation is the way to go about most everything — and certainly the way to approach buffets and bars at parties. Keep it classy by limiting yourself to one or two drinks and smaller portions on your plate. You don’t need to single-handedly wipe out the shrimp platter, and you definitely do not need to call a cab to take you home at the end of the night. 

Keep it classy by limiting yourself to one or two drinks and smaller portions on your plate.

Clean up after yourself.

There will likely be plenty of places to deposit your pistachio shells, plates, and wine glasses. Don’t just set something down and leave it for the hostess to clean up later. If you can’t find the trash can, ask. 

Leave with grace.

Don’t overstay your welcome by being the last one lingering, but don’t leave too early either. Furthermore, you don’t need to announce your departure to all present, but be sure to find and thank the hostess. Let her know what a wonderful time you had! 

For Hosts

Send clear invitations.

Don’t leave those invited wondering what attire is expected, whether or not they can bring a guest, and when their RSVP is needed. Be concise, but clear. 

Be ready when your guests arrive.

You don’t want to running around, setting up last minute decorations, applying your lipstick, or whipping up appetizers when guests begin ringing your doorbell. Have everything set up ahead of time, and be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to get yourself primped and ready. 

Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to get yourself primped and ready. 

Welcome each arrival.

Even if you have invited scores of people, be sure to greet each guest at some point during the night. You may not be able to greet everyone at the door (especially if it’s an open house party), but you can certainly make rounds throughout the evening to say hello. Don’t forget to introduce yourself to plus-ones and make them feel welcome. 

Encourage mixing and mingling.

Introduce your friends to each other, pull in the outsider, and start conversations. You may even play matchmaker —  in a discreet way that makes all parties feel comfortable, of course. Remember that you’re the ringleader and spark of the party! 

Offer an alternative to alcohol.

Be mindful of the fact that some of your guests may want to sip on something non-alcoholic. Even if your bar is fully stocked with every boozy option imaginable, be sure to have some sparkling waters, virgin cocktails, and pop available too. You may even want to have a pot of decaf ready for those who enjoy coffee with their dessert. 

Assign seats at a dinner.

If you’re hosting a sit-down dinner party, alleviate any awkwardness by assigning seats at the table. You can place festive name cards at each setting to make things easy and elegant. Be thoughtful when creating the seating chart, placing those next to each other who will surely get along and converse easily.

Place those next to each other who will surely get along and converse easily.

Stock the bathroom.

When prepping the house for the party, don’t forget to place a box of tissues, extra rolls of toilet paper, feminine products, and the like in your bathroom(s). The last thing you want is for a guest to have to feel uncomfortable by asking you for a roll of TP. 

Don’t fuss over a mess.

Wine may spill on your white carpet, a plate of cookies may be overturned, and snow may be tracked into your foyer. Don’t make a big deal over any of it. Laugh it off, clean up discreetly, and don’t let it ruin your night.

And, most importantly, have a good time!

Don’t let hosting stress you out. Your party will be a success if you’re having a good time, because then your guests will have a good time. Spread the joy and merriment! 

Closing Thoughts

Avoid any embarrassing faux pas during this festive season by following these simple rules. If you remain mindful of others and act with grace in all situations, you’ll be sure to have a very merry time!